Online health social enterprise Umbo sees demand explode in coronavirus response

- May 14, 2020 2 MIN READ
Umbo CEO and co-founder Weh Yeoh


The medtech and telehealth are sectors that have benefited greatly from the disruption caused by covid-19 as the digital transformation of healthcare escalated dramatically.

Among the online ventures riding that wave is Umbo, an online allied health services provider specialising in speech and occupational health.

Umbo makes it easier for people to see a speech or occupational therapist via its online video platform to take therapists into someone’s home.

CEO and co-founder Weh Yeoh said they’ve seen an astonishing 5,800% increase in demand for their online training services, along with rapid growth across the business ever since, including a 10-fold increase in the number of clinicians seeking recruitment.

Umbo’s platform manages the hiring of clinicians, matching between clinicians and families, and training for clinicians to help them effectively take their business online. The startup is a social enterprise founded in 2018 to combat one of the country’s biggest hidden problems: access to speech and occupational therapy in regional Australia.

Yeoh is a serial social entrepreneur, having co-founded the non-profit WhyDev, for improved international development right,  OIC Cambodia in 2013 to develop speech therapy in the country and then Happy Kids Clinic, which supports OIC. After five years in Asia, he teamed up with Francesca Pinzone and Ed Johnson to create Umbo, seeing similarities in the need for improved access to speech in both nations.

The Umbo team from four to 11, and as the states moved to lockdown, they developed an online summit to help clinicians go digital.

“Over 500 allied health care workers attended our free online summit, which demonstrates the huge demand for credible information, supportive guidance, and tangible advice for how therapists can take their businesses online,” he said.

“It also received overwhelmingly positive feedback, with some therapists going out of their way to let us know that attending the summit kept their businesses afloat. It was incredibly humbling to be part of this journey with them.”

Yeoh said their focus on helping families living in rural and remote communities is partly because it takes much longer to book and access these services, and he believes the virus has accelerated changes to the healthcare industry that will be ongoing.

“The transition to digital practice was already happening well before 2020, but the pandemic has given us an opportunity to get more people to try out online health care, and I think we’re going to see the demand for online health services continue post-coronavirus,” he said.

“Even when social distancing decreases, people will start to wonder why they travelled such long distances to see clinicians face to face, when they can receive the same results in their own homes.”

One of Yeoh’s goals for Umbo is to ensure that parents at home working and children being home schooled can continue to receive therapy for their kids.

“We are releasing a series of free resources for families to access so their child can continue to make gains, in a low maintenance manner,” he said.

In the longer term, Yeoh said Umbo is looking for investors, foundations and partners to help maintain and further this growth.

“We’re dedicated to helping and reaching as many Australians as possible. The demand is there and growing, and getting the right investors on board will be critical to reaching our goal of seeing all communities being supported to grow, thrive and connect,” he said.